Sunday, February 19, 2017

Time

It seems a bit impossible, this ever changing of days that adds up to a lifetime.  The swift passage of moments remind me that as each day ends and a new one begins, memories are piling and months are accumulating.  It is ever noticeable in changing seasons, growing children, and in the soft lines that now spread across my forehead.  How am I here? How has all this life added up to these years, these numbers, these miles and all these addresses?

I can begin to see how quickly a life passes.  I nearly feel life's vapor under my breath slowly, yet aggressively passing with each lived moment.  Time marching on as it goes making a life into a living history and telling the tales of love lived out in worn denim and caramel colored boots.  Days, years compiling to wrinkles and stories of wonder and failure.  Time-a lifetime- whether short or extended, is all the time a soul gets in this one ride around the universe we experience.  And then, by some great gift of grace and bending low, we are ushered into a time with no limits we cannot grasp with earthly minds.

But until then, here where days are numbered and bodies wither, time is the gift of the now.  Time to breathe and stretch in this graceful skin stretched over our bones, time to feel the warmth of a glowing evening sun, time to touch warm salt splashes from the ocean, to experience frozen bits of snow nestled like glittered confetti in eyelashes...time for all of these.  Time to feel the rush of love's embrace, time to feel the empty in the lonely nights waiting for the unknown to arrive, time to hear the music that stirs a soul, time to feel the cotton softness of welcomed sheets beckoning exhaustion to take a pause for relief.  Time to know and be known.  Time for the good, the heartbreaking, the lovely, the tragedy.  For this present moment there is time, and time is the gift that beckons the recipient to treasure it in ways that may seem futile.  Treasuring time by sitting in solitude while bathing in the song of violins.  Time to stare into the face of a child learning these ways of living.  There is this moment to study the bark on a tree, the delicate silken petals of the evening rose, time to savor the feeling of a moment ushered in by the beauty of everything around it.

And then...in this pausing grateful experiential moment where life floats like a crystalline bubble in the palm, there is just enough time to find the Great God of the Universe who bottled this moment and stored up golden rays of sunshine just so it could splash across your very face.  There is time to experience the holy in suspended dew drops on spring leaves.  There is the beckoning of pursuit of the Creator that knitted your heart, your days, your every moment together for such a time to meet Him in all His splendor as it rests on the freckled nose of the child at your waist.  There He is, the Creator and Keeper of moments whispering like the breeze in the valley to find Him, know Him, walk in His love and learn of His ways.

Then, and only then, time hangs in the balance and extends itself like heavy droplets from a summer spigot that hasn't yet come to fullness.  Time pauses and the Holy greets each heartbeat like a dignitary entering the palace walls.  This is time with God, and there is no end to this time.  He never ceases to provide it in abundance, and He stands ready to invite you in to find Him, find time, find pause, find Holy where He alone can fill a soul with all the time it will ever need.




Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Healing What is Broken


I opened my heart a few days ago to an old wound and a person that knew the history.  It was hard and full of tears and self-doubt.  Momentarily, I felt regret for being so raw.  I even uttered apologies, but in the depth of my soul I knew that the sharing of a wound is often the start of the healing of a wound.  I timidly offered my broken up to Jesus.  And in this offering of my broken, I simply found the beautiful gift of more of Jesus.

Too often, I feel this need to carry my hurts alone.  Maybe, I think it is too personal, too intimate to allow anyone into my silent suffering.  Perhaps, I am convinced that strong people bandage their scars and keep moving.  Maybe I am afraid that others will not find my hurt to be worthy of the pain that it has placed on my life.  Maybe, I am just too ashamed.  Sometimes, I realize some wounds are self-inflicted.  There are a million things that can go with a million hurts.

I've been reading some very powerful things on the brokenness of life.  It is eye-opening to walk into the depths of the wounds of this world.  We all carry hurt.  We all cause hurt.  We all fall short of everything we desperately do not want to fall short in.  We hurt, we harbor, we hesitate.  -And then we grieve.  Rarely, do we really heal.  Mostly, we all want healing but not if it causes exposure.

I am beginning to see that the lie of this world is to take our hurts and seal them inside.  Our hurts threaten to crack us open and expose our soul.  We fear exposure.  We fear honesty.  We fear the very appearance of weakness.  We place great value on stoics.  What does it say of a soul if they are cracked open, exposed with the hurt dripping out?  

What if broken, open hearts are not to be feared?  Even I have stood under the shade of a towering tree with the knowledge that the trunk of strength began as a very broken seed.  I know the truth that it only grew from the ripping open of it's very core.  What does this tell me about my broken?  What does it tell me about God's redemption of broken things?

I love this sentence I recently read. "The wounds that never heal are always the ones mourned alone."1 It is those silent weights kept locked in the depths of a heart that never get oxygen, never get reprieve, never get healing.  You see, I am learning that brokenness can only heal brokenness.  It is when we are willing to pour our own brokenness into given-ness that healing begins.   When I can take my hurt and expose it to your hurt, we find strength to walk our hurts boldly into the light where God can wrap us with His healing Hand.  

Didn't Christ model this for us?  Didn't He break Himself into this world to pour Himself into our brokenness?  He took our hurts, our sins- and split Himself to pour out His healing.  To grasp a wound so tightly is to withhold it from finding the healing that is freely pouring out to us still.  

Maybe if you knew that I feel the pulse of anger when my children disappoint, or that I too have the flash of fury when those nearest to me do not meet my expectations- maybe if I am honest and share this together we can share our broken and find mercy.  Maybe if you knew that my heart was split years ago to a lost love, you too could split your heart open about your great loss.  Maybe the splitting, fighting feelings we all clutch really do just need to split on open and expose the rawest of pains so that the brokenness of our Savior can pour into our lives and give us the healing we all desperately need.  Maybe instead of clenched fists we need open palms.  Broken, open hands that reach out instead retract within.  Christ on the cross was spread eagle, not curled into a self-protecting ball.  

But how do we do it?  How do we breathe in courage?  How do we look  at Satan, the father of all lies, right in the face and shout that we are not afraid- we are not going to cling to the fear he feeds us!  We are not going to nurse silent wounds.  

We can only do it when we fling open our arms, our hearts, our brokenness  to Jesus.  Jesus spilled for us, and we don't have to hide.  We take our broken, cracked-open-bleeding hearts straight to His cross and ask for more.  More of Him.  More of Jesus.  And He will always give us more.  Then, we take that more and pour it on other broken hearts.  We pour and pour more of Him, and He fills and fills.  He fills the cracks, the broken places.  He fills with healing so that healing can be poured out.  

I am daring to live my life more open, more cracked so that it can be more filled. I know that I can only pour out to others what has been poured into me, poured over my own brokenness.   

-Jesus, I reach with palms open with my broken to You, the only One that can fill, the only One that can heal.  Help me to open my broken so that I can pour out You...




 1. Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2016)223.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Way...

Maybe....the most loving thing I could ever do is tell you the truth.  Maybe we've all lived in a world too long that is afraid of truth.  I believe that it is time I stop fearing hurt feelings and start helping heal feelings.  What is love if it isn't first true?  How could I ever offer anything of value if it did not first come from the truest place of my heart?

How do I look a hurting world in the face and not be truthful?  What if I had the jewel that breaks open the beauty of living, and I kept it to myself?  Beauty unshared isn't beautiful.  We all get sick of platitudes.  We are weary of empty campaigns.  We are numb of words that look shiny but have no depth.  Images and sound bytes fill up our spaces of hope, but the actual living out of hope seems near extinction.

You see, hope isn't found on a church pew or at a seaside.  Hope doesn't live on mountain crests or orbit planets.  Hope isn't grown in a field.  It doesn't ripen on a branch or rise in an oven.  Hope isn't a thing, it is a Person.   

The truth is that Hope is someone You can know and link your one tender heart to.  Hope broke itself open, spread it's life, spilled it's life, and beckons you to enter in.  Why are we so afraid?  Why does it push people away to know that Hope lives eternal, and that there is a pathway straight to the heart of hope?  

My stomach flips trying to find words to match this truth that I want to shower from skies above to all that will hear it.  I can't breathe until I say it.  I can't smile your way until you know that my love for you is so true that I would risk rejection before I would not share this truth.  

And maybe you think I am crazy.  Maybe you believe I have walked off the edge of some mental cliff.  Maybe you believe that my mind is weak, and I am not able to rise above the fog clearly.  

But I know what I saw and I can't forget it.  I can't go back to empty platitudes and filtered images of a pretend world that no one really lives in.  I have walked broken, broken as a soul can be right into the side of a wounded Christ.  This isn't the flannelgraph faith of my childhood, but rather a daring journey I have taken to the heart of the matter.  I met Jesus.  I met Him, and He met me.  I joined my soul to His.  I joined my life to His, and He has joined to me.  

He is teaching me that what I know of love is so small compared to the the truth of love.  I am seeing that the breaking of my heart is purposeful so that love can seep deep into the cracks of my core.  I am learning to see that my life begins the instant I lose it.  This losing isn't to worthless causes, but a giving of life to the source of life.  Crazy, yes, but oh so true.  I am not the same person I once was.  I am forever altered by Love.

When you really and fully meet Jesus, meet Hope, and you press your soul into this knowing, everything changes.  Love becomes who you are and what you do.  You ache to bring others into this knowing.  You see souls instead of faces, you feel patience instead of hatred.  You long to piece together brokenness by piecing people to the place of meeting Hope.  You can't keep this jewel of life hidden.

I can not.  I will not.

My friends, the truth is, this is where the depth and meaning of life reaches beauty.  It is in the knowing and joining your one heart, your one life, to the One that gave it to you in the beginning. It is daring to live in way that seems radical to this world.  It is the freedom of not feeling the weight of expectation from any person or any entity as to how your life should look, rather knowing that a loved life looks a lot like Jesus.

The most loving thing I can do for you is gently take your hand and show you the way, the truth, the life...to Jesus.  


Thursday, November 17, 2016

To The Twenty-Eight People I Used to Eat Turkey With Every Year

Have you ever been caught so strongly by a memory that it nearly levels you?  Maybe you hear a song, or catch a scent on the breeze, or perhaps you simply look into the eyes of a loved one and instantly you are transported to a moment etched flawlessly your mind.

This week, I dipped mashed potatoes on my plate at a luncheon.  Something about that moment, the scent of butter and roasted turkey, the waiting with plate in hand, caught me so strongly.  I felt like a little child waiting in line in my Mamaw Evelyn's kitchen for a holiday meal.  The house was full of people, children, and laughter.  I can see the beautifully meringued pies sitting on the dessert table.  The turkey was on the bar next to the rolls.  The table was full of aunts and uncles, the living room occupied by fourteen cousins.

For a moment, it was like I was there watching it all play out in front of me.  The sounds, the warm house, the running of little boys everywhere.  I could almost touch it.  I could see the pile of large curls on my mamaw's beehive.  I could hear my cousin Aaron laughing.  I could watch my Papaw cut the turkey with the electric knife.  I could taste the hot, homemade rolls.

Nothing terribly remarkable happened all those holidays.  It was the same house, the same menu, and the same 29 people that always attended. But all that sameness added up over the years to a patchwork masterpiece of childhood memories.  All the predictables and treasured recipes built security and love in the life of a growing girl.

And here, in line at a luncheon with plate in hand, the weight of it all presses on my heart in a wave of lovely gratitude for the memories, the sameness, the security in my life.  So much washed over my heart in between the mashed potatoes and the turkey.  I giggled and felt teary all at once.  It might seem silly to think our little family would drive seven hours over the appalachian mountains every single year for the same turkey, the same people, and the same pies.   But we all knew, it was never for the menu.

Our family was never perfect.  My memories are not all framed and golden, but the ones that are will be treasures I hope to recall lifelong.  If I could truly step back in time to that moment as a child, I would whisper in the ear of all my aunts, "thank you, you are lovely through and through."  If I could climb on the knees of my uncles, I would look them in the eye and tell them "Thank you for your great stories and making me always feel safe."  And- if I could climb in the recliner with my Papaw, I would put my little hands on his face and grin with gratitude for growing me a big ole family that loved me so.  If I could sit at that bar and eat Mamaw's noodles by the handfuls before they were even cooked, I would utter with mouth filled how perfectly sweet her love was for every single one of us.

And...if I could take that seven hour journey over those mountains in that old red station wagon with my brother and parents, I'd say..."One day, this will be a memory.  One day we will be spread all over this world and we won't be able to eat turkey and pie together...but it is because of these hours, years together, we will be able to do it with love and happiness.  Because when God gives you so much love...so much love, you can't not want to share it as far and wide as possible."

I sit down with my little plate of food.  I smile with gratitude that I get to share all that glorious love poured into me since birth with anybody that will take it.  May God give me truck loads of it to give away every single day.  Then, I chuckle a bit and know with certainty as I eat a mouthful of potatoes....

No mashed potatoes will ever replace Mamaw's.


Be loved, be grateful, and share it. Happiest of Thanksgivings!




Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cracked

I spent an afternoon in the woods.  I was overwhelmed with the graces and faces of my Creator God in all of the smallest, unseen pieces of forest land.  Time slowed, sun rays melted over amber leaves, and I was pulled into the beauty.

All around me the scene was playing out of nature's last curtain call just before the bitterness of winter winds would whip through barren trees; so much color, so much texture, so much life dangling all around me.

But truly it was a fade of life that I was witnessing.  The end of a season pressing towards the beginning of the next.  The browning and curling of leaves were markers of life ending.  Faded flowers, fallen timber, and broken seed pods told the story of purpose.

I was struck at the core of what God has been tenderly teaching me.  The seasons of my life are changing.  I am not a stagnate soul.  I am growing and stretching out in this skin of purpose that God is weaving over my life.  I am learning the ebb and flow of time and the intimacy of walking with Him.

I see these beautiful dried flowers in the field.  I am struck at their beauty even in their death.  I am drawn by the whisper of God to go deeper still into this walk and understand that this season of endings I see before my eyes is the pathway to glorious beginnings.  The crushing of seeds, the whipping of winds, the fading of beauty in the moment is a bridge to something beautiful and new in it's own time.


And then I pause.  Maybe the cracking of a soul, the breaking of a heart, the crashing of a dream should be put before this lens.  Maybe the journeys that we take and the sorrow that we bear really are a beautiful testament of love that is preparing us all along for a glorious rebirth. Maybe broken hearts are the best hearts because they are cracked open so love can saturate and grow, spilling grace to the world around us.  

A seed can only grow in cracked and broken ground.  It is in the breaking that life erupts.



Sometimes, living seems so bitter.  Sometimes, it doesn't seem much like living.  But it is in those hardest moments that are released into the hands of God that beauty abounds.  And when the stillness comes, assurance follows knowing that in the hardest pressing- God was ever present.  His redemption working in the cracks.


His heavy hand of love is cradling the cracked heart, and He is breathing hope into the soul.  He is breaking the ground for a harvest yet to be seen. But He knows.  He is the Lord of the Harvest, and He is making way for the bounty that shall spring forth from a heart cracked open to His redemptive hand.


And like the golden rays of Autumn sun splash through wooded arms, the rays of hope wrap the tender limbs of creation and of me.  I see the beauty in the cracks.  They are being emptied of flaw while being filled ever so gently with thick and hope-filled Love.  This Love, from a Savior that was cracked open and spilled to fill my deepest gashes.



And all of the dry bits...the dead bits, each are split open for true life to spring forth.  And though a fading of this moment must take place, the promise of redemption rumbles certain just beneath the visible.

I lift a humble hand to the sky.  My soul is resolute in hope.
A cracked heart is the best heart of all....



Friday, September 30, 2016

When I am Homesick





I was born in Camp Creek, TN.  From the moment I came into this world, I was surrounded by the Appalachian mountains, cold mountain creeks, and rolling hills.  I have memories early in life of things like black bears in trees, watching the mountains burn from natural forest fires, and jumping on hay bales when I got to play on somebody's farm.  The scent of mud, dairy farms, and clover are things that are woven into the very core of me.

I spent most of my summers tucked into those mountains at church camp.  I remember looking for Indian soap in the streams, catching crawl daddys, and sitting on logs around the camp fire.  I can still hear the voices of my sweet TN family singing around that fire and sharing their hearts.  There was a poster on the tree where we would gather that urged us all to, "be still and know that I am God".  There were many quiet moments right there.  I learned to be still and listen.  I listened to the mountain sounds, the crackling fire, and the hums of Mrs. Judy as she would start us on another song.


The mornings were filled with Harvey's biscuits and Sarah and Madge serving us in the mess hall.  We would head over to the screened-in tabernacle and open God's word together.  The fans were turning, the mountains were right there outside the screen, and the charred logs still sat in the fire ring.

Because my parents worked a lot at the camp, I spent more time there than most kids.  There was a couple of us that sort of grew up there.  Sometimes, if we were lucky, we were given the freedom to run about the place without much thought.  I got really good at catching frogs.  I loved to take off on a path with the Smith girls as they would show me water falls and old houses.  I fell into the water more than once, and nothing stings the lungs like a mountain stream.


But more than fun and memories, I did business with God there.  It was a place that my Creator used to speak tenderly to my heart.  Amidst the fun and dearest friends, there was an understanding in my heart that I came to that camp to be still...and know God.

Over the years, many different people came and went from that camp.  Many preachers and teachers would share their hearts.  There were the ones that would shout and jump, the ones that were softer and more gentle, and then there were the missionaries.

Something inside my very soul would stir to life with the missionaries.  Of course, I had my favorites. My "uncle"Neil would come sometimes.  He wasn't really my uncle, but everybody called him that... although I was pretty sure I had more rites to it than others.  He grew up with my parents and went to my Papaw's church.  He even shared years in those mountains working alongside my mom and dad.  But--he would come and tell us of Africa.  I don't know why, but I was enamored with the thoughts of Africa.  I can still hear the sound of the slide projector going to the next slide as he would share with us kids of what God was doing on the other side of the world.

In the evenings, around that same fire, I would ask God to send me to Africa.  I would ask Him to let me be a missionary all over the world.  I would see the dancing flames and pray in my heart that I too could be a part of the story.  I'd head back to my cabin and slide into my sleeping bag hoping that God would see fit to send me.

Years later, I still remember the feeling of the air leaving my lungs as I looked out of the tiny window to the dessert below me as I was flying to Africa.  Sitting in that plane, I felt the tug of heart remembering those precious prayers in Camp Creek.  And suddenly, there I was, looking down at the Sahara preparing to land in the Ivory Coast.  God had sent me to Africa. God had let this little girl from Tennessee travel to the other side of the world.

He has taken me all over the world since then.  This stirring in my heart He put there has seen countries and people I would have never known to dream about.  From the desserts of Africa, to the Ural Mountain region of Russia, and many other places between-  God and I have traveled together over the years. The sleeping bag prayers of a little girl, the Word instilled to me from my family, and those precious years in the mountains have all taught me that the journey with God will always outweigh any treasure in this world.

But, in the quiet, of all the places I have been,  I softly ache for my home in those mountains.  I know it is because that is where I met God and He met me.  He breathed His life into my soul through those people, through His creation, and through the years in His word.  I would love to travel in time to my seat at the campfire.  I would love to pull my boys up to that fire and let them see the dancing flames and the glow of the faces that poured so much of their love into me.  I have taken them to that place, but oh how it has changed.  From a rustic mountain camp to a modern retreat center, it hardly resembles my memories.  But God is still there reaching hearts just like He reached mine.  And He has faithfully answered my childhood prayers and put me on a journey that I could have never imagined.

Whether I am in a mud hut in Africa, a cabin in the mountains,  or in a dutch colonial in Ohio, He is ever drawing me into relationship with Him.  He is working to show me His glory and goodness, and He is allowing me to be a part of His plan.  I will never understand it fully on this side of eternity, but I will gladly walk with Him all of my days.

And when I get homesick....I close my eyes and travel back.  I see the faces of my sweetest friends...and the lyrics to a favorite song take me back...

....And i wish all the people I love the most
Could gather in one place, and know each other 
and love each other well.
And I wish we could all go camping, 
and lay beneath the stars,
and have nothing to do and stories to tell.

We'd sit around the campfire
 And we'd make each other laugh,
Remembering when...
And you're the first one I'm inviting.
Always know that you're invited, my friend.

And at the risk of wearing out my welcome.
At the risk of self-discovery
I'll take every moment
And every minute that you give me.
Every moment and every minute that you give me.

Every minute...






Saturday, September 3, 2016

Bending Low


"I saw what I saw and I can't forget it.  I heard what I heard and I can't go back.  I know what I know and I can't deny it.  Something on the road, cut me to the soul..."
Sara Groves          

I have been trying to teach my oldest son the art of slowing down his mind.  It is something that every soul needs to learn and relearn.  When our minds slow, they focus.  When they focus, they detect the unnoticed.  When they detect the unnoticed, they run right into the very face of God.  And when this happens, a decision must be made.  Will I accept this God reality, or will I close my eyes to Him and pass on by?  

And when you accept, what an unraveling of the mystery of the Holy takes place right in that moment!  He wraps a heart in Truth and Grace, and opens eyes even wider that go even deeper to see Him more clearly than before.  And then...the world changes.  Suddenly, life looks different.  People look different.  Love looks different. It grows immeasurably and hope springs forth with a knowledge that Jesus provided you with the means to find this holy redemption.  Jesus, friend of sinners, breathes the God breath of true life into your soul.  The soul grows in unmeasurable ways linking arms with the Savior.  And in every valley of difficulty, the soul grows in love and in connection with Christ.

But, if you pass on by, the world becomes colder.  People become harder around the edges.  Love escapes you, and life becomes a selfish pursuit.  The hard moments get grittier, and the dark gets heavier.  Living becomes about managing the days; going for gain and surviving the races.  It may be sprinkled with cheer from time to time, but inwardly a soul feels its own shrivel.  And the soul will shrivel and wrinkle and parch dry for lack of love.

Do you know that Love is bending low from our Creator God to touch the souls of the paused person? Can you pause?  Can you slow your racing spirit and allow yourself a moment to be embraced by your Creator?